It was a thoroughly professional performance by visiting team Pakistan as they registered a comprehensive 2016-run victory against depleted-looking hosting side Zimbabwe in the first One-day International of the five-match series at Bulawayo. It was a match which was expected to be dominated by the Men in Green.
However, the margin over 200 turned out to be quite massive in the end. For Pakistan, top-order batsman Imam-ul-Haq was the star batsman. His century helped Pakistan to post a competitive total of 308 for seven on the board. The innings was built around him and the other batters chipped in with their contribution.
Zimbabwean bowlers bowled in the tight areas. It was a good bowling performance by the unit. Blessing Muzarabani bowled well in the initial stage and went for few runs.
Well, in the absence of some of their top players, Zimbabwe hasn’t been able to test Pakistan during the ongoing limited-overs tour. It has been a tough few months for Zimbabwe due to the pay dispute between the top players and the board.
The players have been deprived of their match fees and even the contract fees owing to a prolonged gap. They will definitely look to put up an inspired performance on Monday (July 16) when they meet a much more experienced Pakistan side.
Shadab Khan, the teenage leg-spinner has been quite brilliant for Pakistan in the recent times. He has performed whenever the team required his services.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed has been a very good skipper for the national team. After a poor series in New Zealand, he has done a good job and has marshalled his troops well.
Moreover, the inclusion of Imam has been a positive one so far for Pakistan. The southpaw has played some good shots since his debut and has looked a solid top-order batsman.
Eventually, the bowling department has been impressive as an overall unit. Recently, they also bowled Pakistan to a good victory in the Tri-series final against Australia.
X-factor for both teams:
Personally, I feel young spinner Shadab Khan is the most key bowler for Pakistan. He has bowled quite brilliantly and the African minnows have not been able to pick his variations.
He was quite brilliant in the opening clash and bamboozled several batters with his guile.
There are few other important members in the team as well. Shoaib Malik also holds a key position.
But for Zimbabwe Hamilton Masakadza, the skipper must step up and perform up to his standards. If he plays well Zimbabwe has a chance to thump Pakistan.
Shoaib Malik required three more runs to reach 7,000 runs.
The venue, Bulawayo:
The match will be played at the Queen’s Park Oval in Bulawayo. The stadium first hosted an ODI match way back in 1996 between England and Zimbabwe.
The next match was played against India and surprisingly Zimbabwe won both the matches.
They have a pretty good record at this particular ground. However, they lost the previous match at the same venue against Pakistan by a huge margin of 206 runs.
Recently, the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers was also played at the same venue. Zimbabwe will surely look to win an important match on a venue where they had some good results previously
The two teams are nowhere near to each other when it comes to the skills and standards. However, Zimbabwean team has introduced some good players in their line-up as well. They have to shine at any cost.
The key player battle for Zimbabwe will be between Hamilton Masakadza and Shadab Khan. The Zimbabwe skipper will look to play out of his skin and make a strong comeback. However, he needs to play to his potential in the initial stages.
Another player battle might be between Imam-Ul-Haq and Tendai Chatara might also be pretty important for the home team.
Chatara bowled well in the previous clash and bagged two crucial wickets. The pacer will look to dismiss Imam early on.
Photo Credit: Getty Images.
The day is expected to be sunny. There are hardly any chances of rain throughout the match and it should be a good weather for an international match. The pitch is also expected to be a batting-friendly one.
Where to Watch:
The match will be telecasted live on Sony Ten 3 in India. Live streaming of the match can be seen in Sony Liv.
Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza (c), Chamu Chibhabha, Tendai Chatara, Wellington Masakadza, Tarisai Musakanda, Donald Tiripano, Brian Chari, Peter Moor, Ryan Murray (wk), Blessing Muzarabani, and Liam Nicholas Roche.
Reserves: Elton Chigumbura, Malcolm Waller, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Tendai Chisoro, an Richard Ngarava.
Pakistan: Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Mohammad Amir, Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq, Asif Ali, Usman Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, and Hasan Ali.
Bench: Mohammad Hafeez, Junaid Khan, Yasir Shah, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Nawaz
Pakistan is by far the more dominant team among the two. They have really star players in their line-up who possess the quality to change the complexion of the match.
The batting line-up looks pretty solid and in front of a relatively below-par Zimbabwe bowling attack, they will look to make merry in the second ODI.
The bowling department also looks pretty solid with the likes of Shadab leading it.
Hence, there is no doubt about the fact that Pakistan will be the clear favourites for today’s encounter. I will also go with the Men in Green to win the second ODI,